Walking into my kitchen one mid-afternoon three days ago, I let out an involuntary shriek –jumping nearly before the neurons in my brain had time to process the data:
A small, brown mouse dashed along the cabinet baseboards and into the slot between the cabinet and the dishwasher, dragging its little string of a tail behind it.
It’s the turning-point of summer’s end in my neighborhood. The trees are just beginning to yellow into fall color, the nights are cool enough to prompt a 3 a.m. trip to the bedroom window to crank it shut against the breeze and grab another blanket on the return trip to bed.
A mouse. Perfectly understandable, I thought, remembering that the mail carrier left the back door slightly ajar in her attempt to drop a package in the entryway. Beside that, we’d spotted one already in the basement, put out a live trap baited with a glob of peanut butter, and caught it –unfortunately a day or two too late to release it. I discovered it not by sight, but by following the piercing smell of dead rodent wafting through the basement storage area. Perhaps it would have been more humane instead to have set a spring trap, I thought, as I carried the trap casketing the rodent upstairs to the trash can outside. Still, we tried. Poor thing.
And now, there’s another one. –Perhaps more, you’re thinking, if you’ve had a house with mice. I’ve not arrived at that conclusion. Yet. My husband spotted him (or her?) once more in the basement workroom directly below the dishwasher (–still not admitting we might have more than one, remember), but we haven’t seen it since.
Still, it’s been on my mind, for many reasons. Years ago, I attended a “healing prayer” workshop at our church, when I was in my twenties, recently married, still finding my way about life as you do in your mid-twenties. Uncharacteristically for me, I agreed to serve as an illustration of what healing prayer might look like. In other words, I was the subject.
The leaders of this seminar, which by the standards of my denomination edged on the mystical and “charismatic,” prayed over me and listened for, I assume, God’s word over me. Two things came from that session, both amusing and unsettling in their accuracy.
“I’m seeing a mouse,” she said, in the listening-prayer part of the process. Would this mean anything? My husband was beside me, stifling a laugh after a moment’s thought. This mouse, she elaborated, had a habit of running out to get what it needed and dashing immediately back into its hole. Slowly realization dawned –the mouse was me. It’s how I operate –I rarely step out into the light, I resist being revealed, and I usually run into hiding when threatened. The metaphor, vision, whatever it was apparently worked, or at least my husband thought so.
The second thing she saw was a book. Because I was in my bold mid-twenties, I was foolish enough to question this. –Are you sure it was a book, not a canvas, not a painting? This isn’t right, I thought. A book. Maybe an allusion to illustration, I asked? Perhaps, she answered, but it’s such a beautiful book…
The punch line there is that a few years down the road, I recalled that she was one of the first to point out that my true calling might have been more with words than paint. I’ve long since lost the string that threads those two visions together, but the two pieces have stuck in my mind for years.
And, so, this is why I suspect that the sudden appearance of this little rodent-harbinger of prophecy that exists somewhere in the dark recesses of my kitchen cabinets was sent on a mission.
At present, I’m in mid-dash along the baseboards of my life, driven again by desire, yet motivated in the deepest part of my gut by an instinctual drive to not be found. Because everyone knows, mice who get found get dead.
And then I remember Reepicheep.
Reepicheep, the warrior mouse that C.S. Lewis wrote into his Narnia Chronicles. The proud mouse that defied biology and instinct and challenged enemies exponentially bigger than he. And I laugh. I am no Reepicheep, Nor am I a kept mouse, a pet in a cage.
Now that I think of it, perhaps not all mice who are found are doomed to life deep in dark cabinets or death by trap or starvation or dehydration. Some spend their limited days under sunshine in fields of abundance, free to glean their daily bread and roam on fresh, soft soil; their lives cut short in a clutch and a sweep, grabbed up to become part of the great food chain of farm life, nourishment for a bird of prey. The risk is all relative, I think, and the outcome is the same, but given the choice, I’ll follow the field mouse.
Epilogue: Several days later, the realization has settled in: we have mice, plural. My husband, daughter, and son just captured a wee one who had the misfortune of finding her way into the heating duct and trapping herself in the intake duct to the furnace. My daughter heard her pattering along the ductwork in the basement and attempting to chew her way through the furnace filter. She was successfully captured, alive, given a consolatory snack of a couple guinea pig pellets and hay and at present, they are bringing her out to the fairgrounds, presumably on the edge of the cornfields, where she can hopefully live a much better life than she could in our home. And now I see, know, and understand that sometimes, mice who get found …are delivered.